Returning to the Office After COVID-19

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A Checklist for Businesses

As lockdown restrictions begin to ease, this checklist for businesses reopening the office can help you jumpstart your return.

You and your employees have been locked down in your homes for the past few weeks and now authorities are looking to lift restrictions and open up. You may be thinking, “We’ll be back soon, and I can get out of this house!” The problem is, if you just pick up and go, and don ’t prepare for having people back in the office, you may run into issues that could have been easily avoided. Now is the time to prepare.

This checklist for businesses is not meant to be an exhaustive list, but it can help provide guidance as you look to reopen the office. It’s organised into four sections: People, Office Space, Technology, and Your Clients. Everyone’s situation is unique but evaluating your plan with these components in mind can help you get organised and anticipate obstacles.


Keep in mind that your team may be nervous about returning to the office. If you prepare properly, you can alleviate many concerns for your employees, enabling them to focus on the work, not on the global health crisis. You and your employees should expect that returning to the office will not be the same as it was prior to CO VID-19. The new normal is, and will be different for the foreseeable future.

Both staff and clients will want to see that you have taken approriate measures to keep safe whilst getting on with the business.

Create a “Return to the Office” taskforce, or point person

Depending on the size of your organisation, consider appointing someone, or an entire team, to lead the efforts of assessing and optimising the office for return. They will also help communicate changes and updates to employees.

Over communicate to your staff about returning to the office

Make sure they understand what precautions you have taken, and assure them they can return to the office safely.

Create a “Return to the Office” schedule

Your goal is to manage how many people are arriving and working in the office throughout the day and week. Consider developing a profile that assesses each employee based on their need to physically be in the office, potential COVID-19 exposure, commute methods (do they take public transportation?), and other considerations (like childcare, for example). Use the profile to build out your priority list for those who are first to return to the office. Consider a phased approach with a schedule that rotates between Work From Home, and work from the office.

It may be that in order to manage social distancing, not all of you people can be in the office at the same time.

Establish an ongoing Work From Home policy

This will help to ensure your office isn’t overly crowded. It will also enable those employees who are concerned about returning to the office to “take it slow”, will help you establish safe, socially distanced working arrangements in the office, and will support your employees with children at home due to school cancellations.

Review and update your policies

Look at sick leave, vacation time, travel policies, etc., and determine if you should make any changes or updates based on the COVID-19impact.

Encourage appropriate safety practices in your office

Practices include frequent hand washing, use of hand sanitisers, eliminating high-touch areas, and wiping down work spaces.

An image of hand wahing at PAAC IT in a checklist for businesses reopening article

Tell employees to stay at home if they, or someone they live with feels sick or exhibits any known COVID-19 symptoms

This may seem obvious, but it needs to be explained to your employees.

Encourage your employees to “ease” into the grind they may experience when they return to the office

Expect that your employees will be “out of office shape” when they return. Working at home is very different than working in an office. Encourage frequent breaks and expect that people will need to adjust.

Check with local health officials about health screening recommendations

You may want to consider a daily health screening procedure, such as temperature checks, but make sure you reach out for guidance before you deploy any new procedure.

Establish an open line of communication with your employees

Create a cadenced stream of communication with your employees and ensure they understand the channels available to them should they have questions, comments, or concerns.

Office Space

While the office may be open, practicing social distancing will still be of utmost importance. Be prepared to make changes to your floor plans, conference rooms, and office signage to ensure your employees can abide by social distancing guidelines. Your goal is to create an office environment that is safe for all staff and clients.

Perform a thorough office clean before you reopen the doors to your employees

Make sure you communicate to your employees the steps you have taken to ensure their safety.

If you share your office space with other tenants, ensure they are practicing safe and effective social distancing guidelines

If appropriate, post any building management or local health official’s notices in visible locations throughout your office.

Ensure your office seating is in line with social distancing guidelines, and schedule employees to be in the office accordingly

In alignment with your Work From Home policy and “Return to the Office” schedule, establish proper working conditions for those employees who do come into the office. If you have to move desks and work stations, are there convenient power and sockets for your computers? Limit the use of conference rooms if the space doesn’t allow for proper social distancing.

Be prepared to enable social distancing and good health behaviour

Make sure your office is well equipped with enough hand sanitiser, masks, gloves, etc. so your employees can be as comfortable in the office as possible.

Develop traffic flow patterns in your office

Just as many supermarkets and other stores have implemented “swim lanes” during this crisis, consider setting up traffic flow patterns in your office. This will help to ensure employees don’t “accidentally” bump into others and will enable proper social distancing.

Establish guidelines for conducting group meetings.

This will be especially important if you will be meeting in any conference rooms. Make sure your employees understand social distancing guidelines. Consider labelling conference rooms with occupancy limits and seating arrangements that allow for social distancing.

Establish guidelines for any visitors entering your office.

Post the guidelines to ensure your visitors understand and comply. Don’t forget to communicate the guidelines to your employees.

Create a reclosure plan

Ensure you have a plan in place in the event an employee in the office shows symptoms or tests positive for COVID-19, or if officials close non-essential businesses again due to another wave of Covid 19 infections. The Government has said they may impmenet local lockdowns – so it might be your town or borough that gets locked down again.


Returning to the office doesn’t necessarily mean you will be abandoning all of your Work From Home set-ups. In fact, your workforce will likely consist of remote workers for some time to come. In addition, workstations in the office may have been sitting idle while everyone worked remotely. Your technology goal is to ensure your employees have what they need to do their jobs effectively while you ensure and maintain a safe and secure work environment.

Evaluate any new technology deployed during the crisis

The tools your employees used to work remotely may or may not be required when you return to the office. Create a list, including any new devices, and decide if they stay or go. Evaluate how the new tech was implemented, determine what worked and what fell short, and if you still need all of the licenses you purchased. Examples include new Office 365 licenses, Zoom, new laptops, etc.

Evaluate any service providers you use to run your business

Identify any vendor that was not able to achieve their SLAs and determine the cause. Pay particularly close attention to those critical vendors and how they performed during the crisis.

For any employee who will continue to Work From Home, audit the tech they will be using

Determine if the tech is appropriate, secure, and is sufficient to enable optimal productivity.

Image of a person using a Macbook at PAAC IT in the checklist for businesses article

Run an audit on workstations in the office

An audit will help you determine if the workstations are properly patched with the latest OS and other critical updates that may have been missed whilst working from home.

Document a list of those employees who used their personal computers to Work From Home

Develop an appropriate action plan to ensure the ongoing use of personal computers or devices complies with your company’s security standards. Consider requiring your employees to change the passwords on any personal devices. If you havent got a working from home policy – think about creating one so you are prepared for the next time.

Catalogue items that were removed from the office

Protect your business and intellectual property by ensuring any devices, technology, files, folders, contracts, customer lists, and documents, etc. are properly returned to the office. This list may include electronic files left on the employee’s personal workstation or device.

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Conduct a gap analysis

Document the technology gaps that were exposed during the crisis and create a plan on how to address them.

Schedule a review of your Disaster Recovery (DR) and/or Business Continuity plan

What!! You don t have one?  If you do, Wwhat can be improved upon? What worked well? Were you able to easily transition from the office to Work From Home? How was your business impacted during this crisis? Update or create, your DR and/or Business Continuity plan accordingly.

Schedule regular DR and Business Continuity testing

This should be a routine part of your business. But given this recent crisis, regular DR and Business Continuity testing will be even more crucial moving forward. Don’t be caught unprepared.

Your Clients

From the perspective of returning to the office, once your people, your office, and your technology are in order, it’s time to focus on your clients. This is where you and your team can play a critical role in helping your clients get back to the office.

Schedule a review of each client’s current state.

Expect changes to your clients’ businesses. Be their trusted advisor and learn what new challenges they expect. We have found that many people have formed new and different bonds with their clients during this crisis. Holding video calls wheile we are all at home has let us all into each others lives in ways that never previously happened.

Utilise this checklist to build out your clients’ office reopening plans

Now that you’ve built out a plan for your own office return, you can be prepared to help your clients do the same. Tweak your approach based on their business and use the sections of this checklist to exchange ideas on getting the best from the new normal.

Develop and conduct an After Action Review with your clients

When most of us got the word to start working from home, we had little time to prepare. Use the lessons learned during this crisis to update the planning process with your clients. What did they learn? What did you learn? Document this, and prepare as this may happen again. Next time, you and your clients will not be caught off guard.

Plan for the future. COVID-19 was a shock to most people

Work with your clients to create a plan for the next time something like this happens. One of the main reasons we sett that small businesses dont implement comprhensive computer ant-virus measures is the “it wont happen to me” syndrome. Well, this time a real world virus has got us all – it can and does happen to “me”. So consider developing a grab-and-go approach for Work From Home, and implement it with your clients.

Review the current Disaster Recovery plan with your clients.

Utilise lessons learned to update the plan. Again its a good opprtunity for a meaningful way to build relationships and learn from each other.

If you would like to talk about how we can help get your business back to your, simply book a discussion timeslot here.

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We provide supportive leadership enabling our business community to succeed and prosper through effective use of IT and Technology. PAAC IT is an IT Company in Surrey offering small businesses the personal attention and care that their IT systems deserve. If your company has between 1 and 100 employees and need a IT Company in Surrey we would love to hear from you!

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